PlaySlam Takes the Stage

photo-7If you had 24 hours to come up with an original play would it be Tony award material or a beautiful disaster? Students from Morgan University and Towson University gathered together to put their creative ideas and insomnia to the test in the 24-hour PlaySlam. “The 24-hour PlaySlam is a chance to throw together a group of playwrights, directors and designers to see if they can last 24 hours,”  says Towson faculty producer David M. White.

The plays debuted on Saturday, September 29 at 8 p.m. at the Turpin-Lamb Theater on Morgan’s campus.

Each play had its own unique flavor and lasted no more than fifteen minutes. Despite the short period that each production had to come together, the plays did not seem rushed and came off well-written and well-rehearsed.

All the plays in the PlaySlam had the theme of glass and a prop that had to be incorporated into the performance. The first play of the night was “The Negro Nutcracker” written by Wilton Howard. Howard’s play was highly influenced by biblical characters, Howard’s own Christian faith and the idea that you never know who you truly are until you take a good look in the mirror. The play is about Sarah, played by Sharnicia “Shae” Grandy, a mother of five missing daughters that thinks that a negro nutcracker is her son. Her half-sister, Brunhilda is helping her to pack up her things so she can move in with her. Brunhilda’s friend, Zipporah, recognizes that Sarah is crazy and tries to send her to mental hospital. When Zipporah puts her hands on Sarah, with intentions to force her to go to the hospital, Brunhilda takes the negro nutcracker and kills her. The play ends with a chilling phrase and as the lights fade to black. “Sarah…where are the girls?”

The second play of the night was “Greg Glass” written by Jim Harbor, a Morgan playwright, which was based on a screenwriter who lived his life through his own fantasies. The play has a comic kind of feel, similar to that of the 2010 film “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” The story constantly flips between reality and fantasy, with characters in the real world doubling as superhero’s within Greg Glass’s mind. Harbor incorporated his prop, a spoon into his story by making it a weapon that the super villain, Queen Nebula uses to defeat Glass’s superhero allies, Shamus the Super-X and Kid Cosmis the Girl Nova and eventually make Glass finally face reality and let go of the “childish fantasies meant to save him from his own insecurities.”

The third play before intermission, “A Farce in Fragility” by Steve Barroga, from Towson, gave the most comical relief. A parody of the Disney classic Snow White, “A Farce in Fragility” puts a hilarious twist on an old tale. Snow White, trying to hook her prince, comes up with the idea to take a potion that any two people who take it will fall in love with each other. Her plan takes a turn in a totally unexpected direction when one of the dwarves, Stouty accidentally takes the first part of the potion. When the prince comes, he tells Stouty that he’s used to rescuing girls who play damsel’s in distress to get his attention. “I do this every summer,” boasted actor James Ruth, as the Prince. “You know, gotta keep up appearances.” Annoyed, by his bravado, Stouty gives the Prince the other part of the potion and the Prince finds himself in love with him. With witty plays on words like “I will rule all your parts,” and some passionate kissing, Barroga left his audience in stitches and the play received a standing ovation.

After the brief 10 minute intermission, “Tales to Turn Fire to Ice It’s…Where Thunder Strikes Twice” written by Linus Owens made its debut. Owens, a Towson student, actually introduced his play in a high pitched scream that left the audience in applause and laughter. “Tales to Turn Fire to Ice It’s…Where Thunder Strikes Twice” was about a confrontation between the space police and a space villain. Unlike any of the other plays, “Tale to Fire to Ice It’s… Where Thunder Strikes Twice” uses glass in the most literal sense. “Wasn’t there supposed to be a space train?” says actress Ariel Lindo in thigh high space boots, as Zooks, a woman who has been taken hostage by the Space Villian. “No, that was just supposed to be a metaphor,” snaps Andi Hallock as Bukket. “A metaphor for what?”says Zooks. “I don’t know…glass?” Bukket replies. The play had a goofy kind of feel and the cast really played along with the audience. At one point Owens even tries to make an appearance as a cat. The play ended abruptly and left the audience is a silly and lighthearted mood.

The next play was “The Greenhouse Effect” written by Brandon Scott Boyd, a play about a couple that gets pregnant. When Arron, played by Paul America, finds out that Erica, played by Laura Gede, is pregnant, he doesn’t want the baby. Feeling like the child will ruin everything, he pushes his insecurities and fears on Erica. Throughout the play, Erica, Arron and Arron’s mother, Clarice, played by Laura Saunders, refer to the pros and cons of windows, using them as an analogy for life. Erica hates windows, because she says that all they do is show everywhere they aren’t. After the pregnancy, Arron says that the problem with windows is that it’s traps things. “The problem with windows is that the sun can get in, but it can’t get out. The short waves get through, but they can’t get out. They’re trapped. I’m trapped.” Right before the climax of the play, Clarice gives a deep analogy for windows mean as she tries to explain to her son that because he pretended to be a man in bed with Erica he must actually be a man now that a child will be born. “Windows are fine. They show you where you’ve been. What you need is a skylight, they remind you that you can’t fly.” The play ends with a voicemail from Erica saying that she’s had an abortion and she needs Arron to pick her up.

The last play was “The Mask of Life” written by Dominique C. Butler, a Morgan student. Butler’s play revolves around Angelica, a young girl played by Sadie Lockhart, a homeless man, Sir Angus Walter John Stevens, played by Aaron Miller that she meets one day after her mother played by Chloe Anderson makes her angry. Sir Angus, battered by life and bad experiences, chooses to detach himself from everything, including his ex-wife for being “too beautiful” and his daughter. “Life is a mask, and this circus, I don’t want to be a part of, so I just chose to be a fly on the wall,” says Angus, explaining his position to Angelica. The next day, hearing something that her friend Reva, played by Keena Noble says that mimics what Sir Angus has told her, Angelica realizes that Sir Angus is Reva’s father. The play ends when Angelica reunites father and daughter.

Each play gives a thought-provoking lesson on life, love, sexuality, and choices.  When first hearing about the 24-hour play slam, one would automatically think of the show “Whose Line Is It Anyway” with short random jokes that could be a hit or miss.  Both Towson University and Morgan State students did a superb job with these last minute performances. If you did not attend the 24 hours from the page to the stage, PlaySlam you missed out on a surprising treat.

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